FALLS CITY -- Before picking up pencils and books, students in Falls City -- and their parents and teachers -- picked up rakes and garden shears to spruce up Falls City Elementary School on Thursday, Aug. 26.
"The kids were so excited they got here early," said Amy Houghtaling, the director of the district's after-school program, Family Academic Clubs and Enrichment for Success (FACES).
About 50 students, school employees and parents turned out to help manicure the school grounds and clean and repair the inside of the building.
Students Nathan Gilbert, 12, Kyle Smith, 12, and Harley Lukins, 13, were busy sweeping, clearing shrubs and hauling debris. They said the work party was a good way to help get the school ready for classes.
"I came out today because I wanted it to look nice," Smith said as his companions nodded in agreement.
The cleanup day took place on the last day of the FACES August summer program and was a bit of a last-minute idea.
Houghtaling said the plan started the week before when her husband, Art, a high school teacher with the district, noticed the elementary school landscaping was looking overgrown.
Amy Houghtaling said she thought a cleanup would be a good activity for the last day of the summer session and sent word out to parents and teachers.
She said the volunteers took on more than they were asked to.
"One parent brought a truck full of equipment," she said.
Those lawn and garden tools went to good use. By late morning the pile of excess vegetation was overflowing about a dozen yard debris and garbage cans. Volunteers hauled away one trailer load after another of weeds, shrubs and tree branches.
"There were weeds everywhere," Houghtaling said. "We've taken barrels and barrels of weeds away."
Volunteer and soon-to-be after-school program instructor Roxi Kempfer heard about the cleanup day because her children attend FACES. She said she put on her garden gloves and joined the work party about 30 minutes late, but already could see progress.
"I thought I could see a transformation when I got here," she said.